Kenya has postponed the deadline to close Dadaab refugee camp by six months sparing the over 200,000 refugees still there.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said the move followed a request by the UNHCR commissioner of refugees Filipo Grandi to extend the time for repatriation and closure of the camp.
He said the volatile security situation in Somalia and ongoing elections had made it difficult for Kenya and other partners to meet the deadline. Kenya announced in June it planned to close the camp by end of November 2016.
“The government has accepted the request to extend the deadline for completion of repatriation of Somali refugees and eventual closure of Dadaab Refugee complex by six months,” said Nkaissery.
He made the remarks in his Nairobi office while in the company of UNHCR special envoy on Somali Refugee situation Mohamed Affey, Somali ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Jamal and a taskforce that had been formed to oversee the repatriation process.
The CS said an elaborate repatriation programme will be issued from December and the process will be done in a humane, safe and dignified manner that insures none of the refugees is put in harm’s way.
Nkaissery revealed 262,000 refugees still remain at the camp and so far 16,000 have been repatriated in the last six months.
He denied reports by agencies including Amnesty International that refugees are being forced back to Somalia. He termed them untrue.
“Kenya is committed to upholding international law in the repatriation process because we respect all international protocols that are signatory,” he said.
In the six months, those involved in the repatriation will clear double registration where some refugees have irregularly registered ask Kenyans while some Kenyans have registered as refugees.
In January, all non-Somali refugees will be relocated from Dadaab to other UNHCR camps while in the third month of the period they will complete the relocation of Somali refugees to third countries.
In the fourth and fifth month the team plans to complete the repatriation of Somali refugees from Dadaab before the government starts the process of environmental rehabilitation programme in the area, said Nkaissery.
The CS said Kenya plans a special IGAD summit in Nairobi to discuss the crisis and other regional security issues.
Kenya has announced Sh1 billion would be used in the exercise and gazetted a taskforce to oversee the repatriation process.